I recently found myself in a room filled with in house healthcare lawyers. I was the only doc, let alone physician entrepreneur, there.
After the usual full contact schmoozing, tasty morsels and open bar, two lawyers from large hospital systems answered some questions and made comments about the issues and opportunties these folks face as sick care quickly changes. Dealing with the legal and regulatory challenges of innovation, intrapreneurship and technological change seemed to be on most everyone's mind. There were few clear answers. That's because:
- Innovators are leading indicators and sometimes ask for forgiveness. Regulators and lawyers struggle to catch up and generally ask for permission. That can lead to Therantology.
- The entrepreneurial mindset is often lacking in both employed physicians and in house lawyers. There are many exceptions, though, to the rule.
- The barriers to vetting, piloting and deploying technologies, within a large integrated delivery system, particularly digital health solutions, are substantial.
- The rules change often and it is hard to keep up. Take AI for example.
- Lawyers pay attention most often to those who can fire them or sign their paycheck.
- Lawyers worry about the size of the bill for outside counsel consultation.
- Most are overworked and understaffed. Unlike working in a large group with lots of others with experience, wisdom and judgement, in house lawyers are often on their own.
- The medical culture and the legal cultures are substantially different so they often don't see eye to eye of even understand what each other are saying. Doctors don't play nice with each other let alone lawyers.
- In the early stages, start up sick care intrapreneurs need help with protecting their intellectual property, creating startup up entities with the appropriate governance structure and raising private money without running afoul of securities laws, rules and regulations. Many of these subjects are outside the expertise of in house counsel , not a priority or outside of their job description. Consequently, they are often turfed to "tech transfer". Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
- Sometimes, doctors who are used to unpleasant medicolegal encounters with lawyers, come to the entrepreneurial table with a biased mindset.
Innovation starts with mindset and sets the path towards success or innovation. Physician intrapreneurs need entrepreneurial lawyers to help them navigate the treacherous waters of sick care innovation and entrepreneurship. Otherwise, what might have been an invention or innovation will continue to be merely an idea that never sees the light of day.
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.
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